The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name sake. (Psalm 23:1-3, KJV)
Truly Jesus is the shepherd of my soul. He tends my soul the way a shepherd tends his flock. He loves my soul and desires that it would prosper. Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. (1John1:2, KJV) An impoverished soul cannot sustain itself: Where there is no vision, the people perish...(Proverbs 29:18, KJV) Our soul needs to be watered, fed, and rested. A closed soul results in loss of vision (eyesight/perception), inability to fully express our emotions (e.g. joy, mourning), and difficulty in relating correctly to people.
In a world where the cares of life can so easily rob souls of prosperity, we need to be aware of those times when Jesus lies us down in green pastures and beside still waters. Personally, I've learned that my soul periodically needs to be cleansed and refreshed. Otherwise my soul gets bogged down with problems, cares, worries, and obligations which caused my soul to suffer negative effects. I know with me, the Lord encourages me to do activities which are fun for me in order to refresh my soul. This is not always easy to do, especially when you are going through crisis in your life. It's the crisis which gets our eyes off Jesus and onto the problem, making it difficult to rest, relax, and have fun.
I remember a time when the Lord blessed me, through my sister, with an all expenses paid vacation. My financial difficulties prohibited me from paying my own way, which made me angry at God. I was exhausted from dealing with bill collectors and jobs that never met my heart. I was tired of being denied of making purchases or participating in activities which required money. I was questioning and complaining to the Lord about his lack of provision and feeling drained of faith. My sister wanted me to come and decided to bless me with the provision, so that I could go on the trip. We were headed up north to some christian music festivals in the Pennsylvania and New York areas and also decided to make a stop in Niagara Falls in Canada. I was excited because I love to go to concerts and enjoy being near water. Also, one of the festivals included a theme park, which to me was great considering how much I love roller coasters. And most of all, I would get to spend quality time with my family. Yes, I was excited but I couldn't fully enjoy the trip. I was too weighed down with my personal troubles. My soul was closed. I couldn't touch my heart, therefore I couldn't express my soul correctly. My vision was totally blocked; the only thing I saw were my problems. I was blind and could not see the free gift of the trip. My sister showed me Christ's love for my soul and I couldn't receive it because my soul was weighed down with the cares of the world. Also, my emotions were not fully engaged; therefore, I couldn't fully touch the fun I was experiencing. At times I felt distant from my family, which resulted in miscommunication. I was going through the motions and yet my heart was crying for release; but my soul, unfortunately, was in a lockdown. Jesus knew where I was at and knew I needed refreshment for my soul. The trip was a gift from his hand, from the shepherd of my soul. But rather than be grateful to my sister and to Him for the free trip, I dwelled on the fact that I hadn't been able to pay my own way because of my financial difficulties. Because I had been in crisis for so long, I had trouble relaxing and just being myself. I was too use to tension and having to encounter problem after problem. There was no doubt that I was in a genuine crisis but I had allowed the crisis to condition my responses contrary to my heart. I didn't know anymore how to enjoy my life and express my personality. As a result, I came back from the trip with some good memories; but I also came back more tired than when I left. I had very little motivation to get back into my daily routines. My soul was undernourished; I had very little faith and vision to effectively move forward with my life. Only Jesus' love for me and His word enabled me to unwrap the strings of problems that had my soul bound up. It's very much like a shepherd tending to a sheep who has wandered off and gotten itself caught and wrapped up in the bramble bushes. It would have been far easier to use my vacation time to restore my soul. A closed soul robs of us of energy, joy, and vision. Without these elements, we feel our life is going around in circles, bound up in routine, and just plain dry. We can't enjoy the fruits of our labor which is not want Jesus wants for us: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, KJV)
I've learned the hard way that you can't live life and prosper from a closed soul. Your soul is where faith, hope, and grace reside. But we have an enemy of our soul which we can't be ignorant of: The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life. And that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10, KJV) My vacation was a symbol of other times in my life where I was ignorant of Christ's offer to restore my soul. I'm learning that I need fun and R&R to cleanse and refresh my soul. Even in crisis, I need to be aware when Jesus my shepherd is leading me to green pastures and beside still waters. No matter what way He chooses to refresh my soul, His primary desire is to keep my soul open so that light can enter it, enabling me to see and receive all that He, my precious Savior, has for me.
Author, Johanne Jean-Jacques
August 27, 1996
Photographer, Shawna Christine Davis
August 20, 1996